The largest sporting event on Earth is taking place this summer in Brazil. Yet, despite having known since 2007 that Brazil would be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazilian authorities failed to adequately prepare for the event, which is estimated to cost more than $11 billion. Not only has the construction of the stadiums and the relevant infrastructure been far from ideal, Brazil also has a hotel room shortage.
In light of the shortage of hotel rooms Brazilian authorities have welcomed Airbnb, the San Francisco-based company that connects those looking for a place to stay with property owners willing to provide short-term accommodation. Patrick Hoge of the San Francisco Business Times explains:
While Airbnb has been controversial in many cities around the world, Brazilian officials, facing shortages of hotel rooms, have been more welcoming to the San Francisco company, seeing it as a resource for housing the massive influx of tourists expected.
Hoge also reported that, according to Airbnb Brazil general director Christian Gessner, the number of Airbnb listings in Brazil increased from around 3,000 to more than 35,000 in the two year period ahead of the start of the World Cup.
Considering their state of preparation for the World Cup it is not hard to see why Brazilian officials have welcomed a company that makes it easier for private individuals to do what they have been doing for thousands of years: letting strangers stay in their property for a short time in exchange for money.
However, as Hoge noted, there are cities around the world less welcoming to those who wish to temporarily rent out their properties or rooms. According toThe Telegraph, during the London 2012 Olympics those who failed to apply for planning permission before renting their property for less than three months (as required by 40-year-old legislation) faced heavy fines.
Thankfully, British Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said that, “The internet is changing the way we work and live, and the law needs to catch up,” and, "It’s time to change the outdated, impractical and restrictive laws from the 1970s, open up London’s homes to visitors and allow Londoners to make some extra cash." Changes in the legislation related to renting private property are set to be included in the Deregulation Bill currently working its way through Parliament.
In the U.S. Airbnb faces numerous challenges. Last month Airbnb handed over “anonymized” information on hosts in New York after a six-month legal battle with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who claims some of the hosts may be in violation of local laws such as the one prohibiting New York residents from renting out a property for fewer than 30 days if they are not living there.
Over at SFGate.com Carolyn Said notes that Airbnb violates ordinances not only in New York, but also in San Francisco, where "Anecdotal reports" suggest that some hosts are taking down listings over fears of being punished for lease violations and ignoring city bans on short-term rentals.
Perhaps lawmakers in San Francisco and New York should consider welcoming Airbnb, like Brazilian officials have, and attempt to reform outdated laws, as is happening in the U.K. Airbnb is not going anywhere. In April it was valued at $10 billion, and it is available in over 34,000 cities in 190 countries. Lawmakers should be finding a way to accommodate Airbnb, not trying to fit it into an outdated legal and regulatory framework.